Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sealing The Deal – Part 2

How Do You Ask For The Engagement?

Skilled sales people and empirical research are in complete agreement: at the conclusion of your presentation or discussion you must take proactive steps to ensure the prospect becomes a client or customer. It will almost never happen by magic (“Alice, you don’t need to say another word … where do I sign up?”)

Why is this the case? If the prospect listens to you, agrees with what you are saying and believes the benefit – to – value ratio is acceptable, why don’t they just say “yes”?

Because that isn’t how people, including you and me, make decisions. If I am going to agree with you to do something it takes my two decisional elements to concur. Psychologists refer to these elements in different terms (e.g. conscious and unconscious, logic and feeling, etc.), but the essence is that you have a thinking, rational, factually based side to your decision making process AND you have a reactive, instinctive, knee-jerk, flight or fight side.

This latter mechanism is what kept us alive tens of thousands of years ago when we were as much prey as hunter. No time to think about it, just react! Analysis can come later, after your instincts saved you from the saber tooth tiger’s lunge.

When your prospect’s unconscious and conscious elements aren’t in agreement you will hear, “Hmmm, I’d like to think about what you’ve said and get back to you.” When they both agree that your solution is the best choice you will have a new client.

OK, so what is the real effect of this decisional duality? Most importantly, it is the reason people are so conservative when it comes to change. People don’t like change because (listening now to the inner unconscious voice) “up to this point we’ve done OK and if we change it may not work out; by changing we lose this present option, and I’m starting to feel anxious about this new thing you’re contemplating.” This is literally a vestigial survival instinct coming to the fore. In an earlier age the suggestion might have been to take a new path down to the river and your instinct kicked in and immediately saw the danger of this different behavior: you thought, “We could be ambushed, we don’t know what’s there, any number of dangers might lurk ahead … we just don’t know and should stick to what we have done before because we know about that. I think the idea of a new route is really scary.” Feelings are the driving element of this reactive, let’s-keep-the-status-quo side of the decision making process.

If they listen to the solutions you offer for their accounting related issues and their rational/conscious side likes what it hears they may just ignore any negative stirrings in their unconscious mind and go ahead and sign up. Great, you’ve just gotten a new client! Well, maybe.

You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse. Ever felt it yourself? I think we probably all have at some point. Buyer’s remorse occurs when your logical side says yes and the reactive/feeling/instinctual side says no and the difference hasn’t been reconciled. Logically the deal makes sense but it just doesn’t feel right. We all know that it isn’t uncommon for buyer’s remorse to be so strong that the purchased item is returned. Or, if it is an action, the action may be undone (“I can’t believe I agreed to go out with Karl to see a movie. He’s a perfectly nice guy, but I just don’t want to. I’ll come up with some excuse and cancel.”) Clearly, emotions are overriding what seemed logical and reasonable at the time.

By the time you reach the end of your meeting you want the prospect to become a new client. That means they need to be in a place where both their logical and emotional/feelings elements are in agreement. This isn’t an all or nothing thing; there’s a lot of gray between the extremes.

Your presentation/discussion with the prospect needs to incorporate elements that address both decision making elements. Not only must the prospect agree logically that your solution(s) are good, they must also feel OK about making the change signing up with you represents.

The meeting process I have discussed in prior posts – from beginning to end – incorporates these “unconscious” elements. My purpose for including this discussion of how your prospect will make the decision to either engage you or not is to emphasize how important ALL the meeting elements are. You are an accountant; you excel at using process, logic, rules, etc. to do your job. For many of you it may be very difficult to not make these factual elements the centerpiece of your effort to persuade your prospect to engage you.

But, if you aspire to a high closing rate you can’t do this! For you to obtain the engagement the prospect must FEEL good about committing to you, and to ensure they do you are best served to put equal effort into both considerations.

To accomplish this, the prior posts discussed the first few minutes of the meeting when first impressions are formed and the meeting’s tone is set; being aware of your body language during the meeting, and remembering that the solutions you propose must be connected to one or more positive impacts upon the prospect’s life – not just the raw dollars and cents impact.

The lesson from all this is that the closing techniques we will explore in the next posts are predicated upon the assumption that you have put effort into satisfying both of your prospect’s decisional requirements. If you haven’t done so, your chances of obtaining the engagement are slim, no matter HOW polished your closing technique is.

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